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Exploring STL: Shaw Nature Reserve

2014 May 22
by Becky

This week’s weather was beautiful.

We couldn’t stand staying inside for even a minute (well, with the exception of nap time) and had the itch to hike. So I finally packed us up for a long-awaited trip to the Shaw Nature Reserve. 

Shaw Nature Reserve is part of the Missouri Botanical Garden and is situated about 45 minutes away from downtown STL. We’re talking past Six Flags (always an indicator of really far for us city folks) so a bit of a drive. We were prepared with water, a picnic, the Bob stroller, comfy shoes and socks, and the camera.

Upon arrival, we discovered the best cake yet.

Shaw Nature Reserve - 250 Cake


“There are frogs! And lizards! And turtles!” Ethan examined the sculpture for ages. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s St. Louis’s 250th birthday this year and 250 of these cakes are posted at 250 landmarks all over the city and county. Kids LOVE them).

We stopped by the visitors center for a map and some tips from the sweet woman working there. I told her we wanted to do around 2-3 miles and she knew exactly where to go.

Good thing too, because the place is HUGE.

Shaw Nature Reserve-TrailMap

Then we got ready to hike. Ethan was psyched to wear his shades and navigate, maps are kind of his knew obsession.

Shaw Nature Reserve - ReadytoHike

This was our route.

Shaw Nature Reserve-3 mile hike

It ended up being 2.8 miles of peaceful forest, butterflies crossing our path, birds singing, breezes blowing…it felt a million miles away from civilization.

And NO ONE was around.

Shaw Nature Reserve - TrailBeginning

Shaw Nature Reserve - Wildflower

With all the people living in the county, I can’t believe this place was so deserted. It was a perfect day too, warm and sunny but breezy and not humid. Perfect hiking conditions.

Shaw Nature Reserve - Wetland Trail

Shaw Nature Reserve - Navigator


Ethan was a little uneasy at first. We take lots of walks in our urban neighborhood and parks, but this was different. It took a bit for him to settle into the ride, start looking around and watching for what our serene surroundings had to offer.

Shaw Nature Reserve - Caterpillar

Shaw Nature Reserve - Wetlands

Shaw Nature Reserve - Wetlands


We made lots of stops to explore. Caterpillars and Red-winged Blackbirds and bees and dragonflies. We heard frogs chirping from the wetlands boardwalk. The whole journey was extremely stroller friendly, as long as your stroller is a little rugged.

Shaw Nature Reserve - Wetlands Boardwalk


Ethan spotted an observation tower on the map so we made a stop.

Shaw Nature Reserve - Observation Tower


The final stretch was a little warm for those of us not covered by a stroller canopy, so I was very glad we got started early that morning. Sunscreen, hats, and plenty of water all came in handy. Ethan was thrilled to see the Nature Explore Classroom come into view as our loop came to an end.

Shaw Nature Reserve- Nature Classroom

Shaw Nature Reserve- Nature Classroom

Shaw Nature Reserve- Nature Classroom


This completely shaded play space is a natural wonderland for the kiddos. We ate lunch at a giant stump and played on everything after. Again, not a sole was in sight. We had the place to ourselves.

Shaw Nature Reserve- Nature Classroom

Shaw Nature Reserve- Nature Classroom

Shaw Nature Reserve- Nature Classroom

Ethan’s favorite nature classroom feature was the fallen tree. 
Shaw Nature Reserve- Nature Classroom
Ethan balanced, climbed, made music, dug, built, and examined to his heart’s content until it was time to head home for nap. 

There’s much more of this conservation area to cover, we  just covered a corner. But it was the perfect way to spend a beautiful early-summer morning and would make a great group excursion or picnic destination. We saw only one field trip which, for the last week of school, was pretty astonishing.


For MOBOT members, this place is totally free. Parking, entrance, all free. For non-members it’s $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors, and free for kids under 12. One weekends $1 will get you a wagon ride. Is it worth the drive? I say yes, if you are looking to get away and explore. Will this be a weekly visit for us? Not likely.

But it was a wonderful morning trip and I’m so glad we went. We will be back for sure. I’d love to try one of the classes or special events (see my calendar OR the Shaw Nature Reserve calendar for dates and details). 

Have you been to Shaw Nature Reserve? What did we miss?


4 Responses
  1. Linda Johnson permalink
    May 23, 2014

    What a beautiful place for hiking and exploring. The dead tree was a perfect climbing spot for Ethan.

    St. Louis and surrounding area is so beautiful.

  2. May 23, 2014

    We love that place. M takes the girls there a lot for day hikes, and E’s school also goes a lot – they’ve camped there many times.

  3. Lauren G permalink
    May 25, 2014

    We just joined MoBoGa and can’t wait to make it out there. Do they allow dogs?

  4. June 5, 2018

    That place looks beautiful. How peaceful and calm it is there? Would love to just walk around there.

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